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Food + Family | 12 Days of Family Meal Planning

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It’s another quarantine-induced quandry… How to feed a larger household 3 squares a day without killing myself – or someone else – but also to recognize and be grateful that food does bring us together… To treat it all in a way that the work of food and eating won’t turn us into tired, hungry, full, snippy little zombie-esque animals.

Normally in a family with 4 kids, even though we almost always had dinner together, it was otherwise more rare that everyone is home or home at the same time for meals other than dinner. With the girls living on their own, it’s a slightly lesser load, but still mostly focused on 1 meal – dinner. But QUARANTINE?! We’re almost ALL here. 6 of us. Full time. Breakfast, lunch + dinner. Every. Single. Day. 

Sure, feeding everyone isn’t just MY responsibility, but being organized so that none of us are overwhelmed with cooking is. If any few of us want to eat well, that is. And I do want the yummy food. Food absolutely brings people together in a beautiful way – when we’re all relaxed and enjoying a well-cooked meal together.  Now to make sure none of us regret this time …  haha ha haha <Oh, did that laughter sound crazy and NERVOUS to you?! It was… >

For the next few weeks we’ll be back to a full house of 6 FULL TIME HUMANS – Six! SIX!! – with lists of ‘special orders’ they’re wanting to eat, things they’ve missed from home or have been craving. Take-out can be REALLY expensive for 6-8 people. It’s a bit cheaper to break it up by ordering in Lunch, vs a full Dinner. My ultimate solution for it all? A LOT of prep… We’ll see if it works.

Ready?! I’m figuring this out in real time here! Braces yourselves!
Also, I got a brand new Vitamix, so – bear with me …

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BREAKFAST:
Vitamix SMOOTHIES

LUNCH:
Vitamix Corn Soup + Grilled Cheese (Burgoo style)

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DINNER:
Pan-Seared Steaks in Butter (make 1-2 extra Steaks for Pho, save pan juices)
Grilled Veg + Kale Caesar Salad
Mashed Potato (Vitamixed smooth!!) (make extra for Eggsluts tmrrw)
Fresh ‘No Knead’ Bread (started the day before) (save extra loaf)

BREAKFAST:
Eggsluts (w extra/leftover Mashed Potato) (puree leftover veg in?)
Crusty day-after 2nd loaf Bread, sliced

LUNCH:
Sliced (extra) Steak Pho w kept pan sauce, w Poached Quail Eggs


DINNER:
Fish en Papillote – Mediterranean Style (w Zucc ‘salad’ veg)  (double the dinner quantity of Fish)
Cauliflower Steaks (simple lemon/oil)(Make double)

BREAKFAST:
Quiche

LUNCH/SNACK:
Chilled (leftover)Fish Rillette on Flatbread,
Any leftover chilled grill Veg from above as antipasto?
Cold Quiche

DINNER:
Fish Tacos, w Chipotle Romesco Cauliflower (second head, re-seasoned)
Last jar of homemade Carrot Habanero Hot Sauce
Fresh made Lemon Loaf

BREAKFAST:
Leftover Lemon Loaf / Fresh Banana Bread

LUNCH:
Flatbreads w ‘leftovers platters’ – Antipasto, Hummus, Ricotta, Chilled Fish Rillette, Cold Quiche, random fridge Charcuteries, Veg + Dip


DINNER:
4-Day Thomas Keller Roast Chickens (2-3) w Roast Veg
Kale Caesar Salad

BREAKFAST:
Dutch Baby, leftover Banana Bread

LUNCH:
Chicken Soup (homemade bone Stock – can be frozen for another day) w Noodles, leftover Kale (if freezing, add Kale but not Noodles)

DINNER:
Chicken Pot Pies (w extra Chicken / Veg)  (can be frozen for another day)

BREAKFAST:
DIY – cereal, bacon/eggs, waffles

LUNCH:
Super Grill in butter some Chicken leftovers and put on Turkey Congee from the Freezer w green onion (or make wild rice)


DINNER:
Poached Egg Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage OR simple Tomato/Lemon/Chive, Thomas Keller Butter Leaf Herb Salad w Blood Orange
(also roll Tagliatelle and Linguine for other days)
Grilled Asparagus w Poached Quail Eggs
Pavlova (extra egg whites from Ravioli) w fresh fruit

BREAKFAST:
Poached Eggs on bed of leftover Ravioli filling on Cracklebread

LUNCH:
Other Tomatoes/Cucumber/Lemon/Chive from Pasta for  “Greek” Salad w Meat Skewers

DINNER:
Extra Pasta (rolled as Tagliatelle, dried on counter) with Carbonara, Strong (melty) Cheese, grated Cured Egg Yolk – a few days later … 
Kale Caeasar Salad
Fruit Crisp with Ice Cream

BREAKFAST:
Leftover Fruit Crisp
Yogurt Bowls w Fresh Fruit from Pavlova

LUNCH:
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches w last night Strong Melty Cheese,  Sage from Ravioli, Bacon from Tagliatelle Carbonara


DINNER:
Thomas Keller Sous Vide Salmon (MasterClass) w Green Beans or Asparagus (if leftover) + Bearnaise Sauce
Buy 1 extra salmon for curing – start it earlier if possible
Souffle (Julia Child style EVERY time) JUST BECAUSE!
Zucchini Mandolin Salad
French Butter Cake w home-canned Peaches (only a few left!!) and Grand Marnier Whip

BREAKFAST:
Leftover French Butter Cake, Yogurt w Peaches

LUNCH:
Salmon (extra, cooked) Pasta Salad w Celery, Mayo, Chives

DINNER:
Homemade Gnocchi w Fresh Pesto Sauce, Fried Pancetta, sliced Portobello
Artichokes w Mayo / Parm / Cured Egg Yolk dips
Apple Pie w Filling made from our Trees last year

BREAKFAST:
Round #2 of Eggsluts w extra Gnocchi potato, pureed with a few pcs of Pancetta – because they ARE that good

LUNCH:
Portobello ‘Pizza’ Melts from whatever is in the Fridge / leftovers / etc, including leftover Artichoke Hearts, Fried Pancetta


DINNER:
Thai Takeout from Kids Work 🙂
Start No Knead Bread + Flatbread  for tomorrow’s Lunch/Dinner

BREAKFAST:
Bagels w Cured Salmon (2 days), Capers, Cream Cheese etc.

LUNCH:
Another leftovers / veg/dip / Antipasto platter w Flatbreads


DINNER:
Seafood FEAST from Lobster Man (treat day!) incl Clam Linguine (buy Prawns, but save for tmrrw)
Ottolenghi Celery Lemon Salad
Fresh No Knead Bread for all them juices!!

LUNCH:
Seafood Ramen (w fresh Stock, extra celery) add saved Prawns, Bok Choy, Pho fixings

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It looks overwhelming – and that covers only 8 or 9 days! – but with prep, I don’t actually have to do all the work. Anyone can easily prep the Eggsluts the day after our Steak Dinner. In fact, it’s already half done. Once the ‘base meal’ has been made, anyone available can chip in quite easily for the secondary meals. Shopping can easily be done ahead and with fewer trips, knowing what we’re having ahead of time. A bit OCD on the Prep? Well, my very sanity is at risk, PEOPLE! Haha.

There is NO need to follow THIS list precisely – that’s not why I wrote it out. Although if you do I’d love to hear how it turns out for you LOL! I actually had to think through it for myself, so thought I’d share it. But maybe there’s a few ideas in there, and maybe it helps to think about ‘carrying over’ the meals you are ALREADY making so it’s less work in the end. Maybe this all still looks like a lot of work and you’d rather do take out LOL – can’t blame ya! Really, it’s my fault for having so many kids that love food, and for letting them date and bring in more humans to the fold who also love food … LOL

That’s not 12 days! Here are a few extra ideas to fill in the other meals, to give you some flexibility filling in a day here or there:

  • Big meals like Lasagne that feed masses – just put in the oven, add salad, and go!
  • Easy ‘everyone help’ meals, like grilled veg and meats on the BBQ – simple chopping – are good anytime
  • If Breakfast can be mostly ‘pre-made’ while already in the Kitchen prepping Dinner the night before, then why not?!
  • Bond over a more labour-intensive meal prep together once or twice, such as fresh Gnocchi or the Poached Egg Pasta
  • Easy snackables like peas in shells, small cucumbers, baby carrots and dips
  • Don’t feel bad – we all mix in the odd McDonald’s drive-thru, Kraft Dinner or Frozen Perogies smothered in bacon + cheese for lunch, or some local take-out for dinner. It’s all good!
  • MELTS! You can put just about any leftover on a piece of bread, add cheese, toast and VOILA!
  • Movie + Nacho / Popcorn Nights are all you need for dinner sometimes – it’s our favorite!

We often  designate the night before who will be helping with what (cooking, table setting, dishes)  the next day, so that everyone can ‘schedule’ it into their brains what needs to get done. ANYHOW, we’ll see how it goes… ! Will all these meals happen EXACTLY as planned? Absolutely not. But at least it’ll work out more often than not. As I was sorting through photos, I realized this is basically 6 weeks of Quarantine food squished into a 2 week ‘hilight reel’ LOL!

WISH ME LUCK! After these few weeks, it’s back to our regular programming of *just* the 4 of us. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner. EVERY DAY. 

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alison kent HOME KITCHEN design gather elevate compose home cook designer dinner entertain simply her a mothers day set apart dutch baby

Simply Her – A Mother’s Day Set Apart

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What’s your typical Mother’s Day about? Do you have kids at home? A Mom – or even Grandma – nearby? Friends and sisters who are Mom’s you support? Do you have traditions or do you keep it simple?

We don’t have a specific tradition, but the day has traditionally been kept simple. This year marks my 20th year as a Mom. I met my now-daughters back in 2000 when I was NOT exactly a kid-loving 28 yr old LOL. The first time I met the girls (at 6 + 8) I didn’t even want to sit too close to them, in case they touched me and I shriveled into oblivion in a pile of kid-poison-germs. Honestly, I’m not even sure why my now-Husband kept dating me at that point… In a 7 quick years that followed, I had gone from single with a cat (OH, how I miss Frank!) to a Mom of 4 kids, but it all started 20 whole entire years ago.

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For awhile, Mother’s Day would simply be a hike at Lighthouse Park, baby carrier strapped on, with picnic and a dog in tow. Once we happened to be in Mykonos, right next to a fabulous fish restaurant. Although, if I recall, we ended up having pizza that particular day. A few years back the boys were all at Scouts, but the girls and I did a breakfast, lunch AND dinner out between us, my Mom, and my Nana. But, mostly, we’re home. Even though the girls are older and some years scattered across the globe, all that really matters is that somehow we’re all together. Even if it’s just for an hour. And all together is the best gift I could ask for.

alison kent HOME KITCHEN design gather elevate compose home cook designer dinner entertain mothers day mom of four daughters sons

It’ll be different this year for many a Mother. Quarantine will keep us apart, save for Zoom or FaceTime. Celebratory brunches can’t be booked and dinners will likely be missing key ingredients. A fortunate few will be surrounded by children still at home, but too many will be alone. So how do you simply show Mom you truly appreciate her on a Mother’s Day in quarantine?

  • Florists will likely be working OVERTIME this year with deliveries, but maybe this year gifting an outdoor plant to enjoy from the window is an option for the more quarantine-sensitive Mom’s? Beautiful blooms can live outside the window while ‘self-isolating’, and later a bloom or two can be gently cut and brought in with water to appreciate.
  • ZOOM. FaceTime. I know, we’re over it. But why not extend your time on Mother’s Day this year? Enjoy dinner or brunch together while apart. Play an online card game together with your devices. Watch a movie together. Spent TIME.
  • Make a little love-list together of things you want to do post-quarantine, giving Mom a few things to look forward to!
  • Send/give hand-written cards. 
  • Home? Make breakfast, lunch AND dinner! It doesn’t have to be dripping in Hollandaise or fresh homemade pasta with shaved truffles (which is what I asked for… haha!) – but make an effort to try something she would ENJOY (and not be afraid to eat)
  • TOO many kids at home? Give Mom the gift of – leaving the house. LOL! Pour her a cup of tea, sit her with a book, and take all the kids and dogs and anything else that makes noise for an hours walk. 
  • Have a bottle – or three – of her favorite wine delivered! I mean, we’re all still gonna be here awhile…
  • Let her pick the movie. AND actually WATCH IT with her!
  • For one solid day, put down the devices and talk to Mom.
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Need a quick and easy breakfast that will feed the whole family?

Try this Dutch Baby recipe from Chef Matthew Stowe, Top Chef Canada Season 3 winner, from his Instagram – it’s delicious and simple filled with her favorite fruit and a few shakes of powdered sugar.

DUTCH BABY RECIPE

(Just watch for plastic handled pans going in the oven!)

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What about something you and Mom can both make, shared together online while you chat? A charcuterie board works and creates a conversational piece as you each share what you put on your boards, what you ate as a kid, memories of times food brought your family together.

Attempting dinner? Fresh pasta with a simple tomato and lemon sauce is something everyone can get involved in (don’t worry about the truffles LOL).

Time, effort, love. It’s the simple things, really, that matter most.
It might be a year of re-imagining your traditions, but that’s ok. Sometimes change helps us re-focus.

Enjoy Mother’s Day with all your favorite Mom’s out there – aunts, cousins, whomever. Go out and encourage a Mom somewhere! It’s a freakin tough job! It’s my first Mother’s Day without my Nana, so I’m looking forward to doing something small to remember her.

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What will your Mother’s Day look like?
Breathe deep, take life in, and embrace simple.

All my best,

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today’s KITCHEN | Quarantine Eating – Week Two

Better late than never! This was last weeks ‘Quarantine Eating’. I’ve been so busy cooking, I’m behind!

I’m as stubbornly determined as ever to make my way through at least one of our freezers and the pantry. I feel like it’s a losing battle, trying to eat our way through this COVID-19 quarantine. Yesterday I made fresh ravioli using up stocks of pasta flour, frozen stock and tomatoes from last years garden, canned crab meat from the pantry and frozen spinach we had bags of. BUT, it all made so much I ended up freezing 90 small ravioli. It’s like going in a circle back to square one!

Three meals a day and although it feels as though I’m not making progress at emptying old food from the house, we sure are eating well, and it’s been a great practice of creativity. How to use saved or leftover food from dinner last night to create a breakfast or lunch today? How do I put together random items that are on their last day of freshness, that might not normally ‘go together’?

On another side, I’ve been doing what I can also to help others go through their pantry. In a world where we stand at the grocery aisles (or virtually online) and can’t figure out what to do when half our ‘go to’ items aren’t available, I did a few of the posts from a Q/A on Instagram Stories. I thought I’d post some of the more helpful ones here!

Enjoy!
And – let me know what you’re ‘stuck on’ in your pantry – I’m happy to help!

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The BIG Question!
alison kent HOME KITCHEN design gather elevate compose home cook designer dinner entertain coronavirus COVID-19 quarantine eating pantry freezer ideas what to do tofu
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These were just a few Answers I had received – it was fun to answer them! I also have been looking at creative ways to use my own leftovers, etc., and did a couple of fun GIF’s last week.

I’m not experienced at video yet – you might need to expand to see the whole thing…
alison kent HOME KITCHEN design gather elevate compose home cook designer dinner entertain coronavirus COVID-19 quarantine eating pantry freezer ideas what to do portobello pizzas
Portobello Pizzas are a great way to use up random bits and pieces of leftover vegetables or meats in the fridge!

Keep following my Instagram Stories for more! I love finding new and creative ways to use a ‘base recipe’ that’s easily adapted to whatever I have in the fridge or freezer, giving me flexibility to use up foods that might otherwise be wasted.

What’s your biggest challenge in the Kitchen right now?
Share with me below!

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May Cooking School with La Peetch
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Quarantine Eating during Coronavirus – Week One

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Needing some food ideas / tips for this crazy, quarantine time-out?

It just feels strange writing that… But this is our world as of March 2020, I suppose. I’m very fortunate in general – I have a warm house to seclude in, work I do from home, and 3 freezers worth of food to get through before we need to panic in any kind of pandemic.

I made a massive grocery haul at our local market on Granville Island to stock up on wine, fresh veg and some of my fave foodie treats. And wine. Did I mention wine?! Good thing, too – a day later my throat was hurting and the time inside became a little more critical (turned out it was nothing – whew!). To boot my Food Kid had brought home 2 more bags of Peking Duck bones that needed to be stripped and stocked, creating more meals for the week.

So what do you make for a week of breakfast, lunch + dinner for a foodie family of four (as my girls are off quarantining on their own)?!

I started with doing a stock take of the freezers and pantry. I mean, what better time is there than self-initiated seclusion to clean out berries from 2014?! LOL – I wish I could say that was an exaggeration… I may or may not have also slipped down to the local tiny grocery on our corner once or twice, and here are some tips if you’re doing the same:

  • Try buying things no one else seems to know about, like Crackerbread or Burrata Cheese – they’re delicious and useful, but not every knows that – yet…
  • Look for bigger stocked items that you’ve never used before – provoke your own creativity a bit! Who doesn’t like a challenge once in awhile? It also helps save the more oft-used items for people who really need them
  • Buy only a few of regular items that are heavily stocked, versatile and long-lasting, like canned tomatoes or capers. They can flavor a wide variety of dishes

BUT FIRST, the fresh stuff from Granville Island, just in case we can’t get it again for while…

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Day One

Grilled Cheeses

—————

Oysters

Clam Linguine

French Bread

Sunken Grape Almond Cake

DAY ONE

Can we pause for a moment and acknowledge the fact that the sauce I made for the Oysters was AH-MA-ZING?!?! Easy Recipe, too >

Jump to Recipe
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Also I had grapes starting to go in the fridge, so Google came up with a recipe for Sunken Grape Almond Cake. My cooking of said cake was a FAIL, but it still tasted good LOL. What can I say? I am NOT a Baker!

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I’m already wondering, at this point, when my desire to catch up on decades of sleep loss will win over my energy to cook…

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Day Two

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Bacon Gruyere Omelette

—————

Smoked Duck Pho w
Duck Skin Hoisin Wraps

—————

Kale Caesar Salad

Steamed Artichokes w Trimmings

Farro Risotto w Morels + Asiago

DAY TWO
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Once the newest batch of Peking Duck carcasses were sufficiently made into stock, and a few extra packages of Smoked Duck Breast had been procured the day before at the Market, Pho was the obvious next step!

Artichokes, trimmed and steamed, are one of the few vegetables ALL of us enjoy. Dipping them in mayonnaise and parmesan brings up the fat quotient, but OH WELL – they’re delicious!

I’ve been wanting to try Risotto with Farro instead of Arbario rice, hearing that it’s considerably healthier, so now was about as good a time as any to do so. It was Delish! I would definitely make it again, but it has a bite the rest of the fam wasn’t as happy about. They’ll get used to it LOL.

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Day Three

Sometimes I’ll purposely cook a few “extras” so that I can make up some deluxe Poached Eggs in the am. Literally anything can go on a piece of toasted, cheesey Crackerbread (which gets far less soggy than actual bread, and is often gluten free if that matters to some). Two extra Artichokes from Day Two became a delicious breaky on Day Three!

alison kent HOME KITCHEN design gather elevate compose home cook designer dinner entertain coronavirus cooking at home quarantine pantry freezer leftovers artichoke gruyere poached egg breakfast

We figured social distancing is just as good as quarantining, and my sore throat hadn’t done anything else in awhile, so Food Kid and I spent the morning crabbing at the Pier. SUCCESS – we managed to forage for ONE whole Dungeness Crab! He made a Crab + Prawn Ceviche with it — SOOOO good.

Artichoke + Gruyere Poached Eggs

—————

Perogies from the Freezer
w Cheese, Green Onions, Bacon + Sour Cream

—————

Dungeness Crab + Prawn Ceviche
Tomato Lemon + Green Onion Pasta

day three
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Naturally all the Oyster, Clam and Crab shells have been saved in the Freezer in case we need a shellfish Bisque sometime soon!

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Day Four

I’ve never been happier that I spend all that time canning in the Fall LOOOL!! Also, if you don’t know Crackerbreads yet (similar to THESE), they’re the BEST, especially for end-of-world zombiepocalypses where you need to buy/store long-term pantry items. They pretty much never go stale, and can do lots of things bread can do, like hold a mean Poached Egg or messy Melt!

alison kent HOME KITCHEN design gather elevate compose home cook designer dinner entertain coronavirus cooking at home quarantine pantry freezer canning peaches waffles breakfast

Spelt Flour Waffles w Okanagan Canned Peaches from the Pantry

—————

Leftover Ceviche Crab/Prawn Melts on Crackerbreads

—————

Steaks from the Freezer w Grilled Okra/Green Beans/Onions

Greek Salad Veggies

Kale Caesar Salad

day four

We don’t use a ton of flour, and were completely out of regular AP Flour, but I also love the molasses’y taste of Spelt anyhow. It, obviously, flew off the shelves far slower than it’s whiter cousin. It’s a good time if you’ve been wanting to try different ingredients, to try them now! The more eclectic they are, the more likely they’ll still be on a shelf or online somewhere.

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Day Five

It was largely a Leftovers Day. Leftover steak (I had to tear a few pieces away from the hungry teen-boys!) was used with cheese I found in the back of the fridge (?!) for DELISH Portobello Pizzas, and Prawns saved from the other nights’ Ceviche were added to our Sole en Papillote.

We still have quite a bit of fish in the Freezer – will have to think of what else we can do with it… Time to get creative.

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Toasted Leftover Waffles + Peaches

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Portobello ‘Pizzas’ with Leftover Steak, Bacon + Cheese

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Freezer Sole en Papillote w Capers, Lemon + Leftover Prawns

Grilled Asparagus w Mushrooms, Parmesan + Poached Quail Eggs

Greek Salad w Feta

day five
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Day Six

I made it to our tiny local grocery a block away for Yogurt – much needed, apparently! I tried to only buy a few things there was a LOT of in stock (anti-hoarding?!) AND that would last a long time. I also grabbed Basil and made a quick Pesto at home to go with a Spaghetti Squash that was lying around.

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There were also plenty of Russet (baking) Potatoes, but not sure what I’ll do with them yet – haven’t made Mashed Potatoes in forever and I have some whip cream about to expire… They also still had flour, but no one has bread, so I thought it’d be good to get back into making my own again!

Yogurt Bowls w Freezer Straw-Rhubarb ‘Pucks’ + ‘Caddy Goodies’

—————

Cauli + Leek Soup (w Okra) w Freezer Toulouse Sausage, Kale and Leftovers

—————

Bruschetta w Burrata on Mary’s Crackers

Pesto on Roasted Spaghetti Squash w Ham cubes

Kale Caesar Salad

day six

Cauli + Leek Soup is a staple Freezer item around here, but I was out and the grocery had PLENTY of both, so I made a big batch for lunch + freezer. It’s such a great base to use w ANY leftovers – such as the rest of the Okra I knew was just going to go bad – and the remaining filling from our Portobello Pizzas. Really, it’s a Kitchen-Sink kind of dish, which is excellent and adaptable these days. I keep Toulouse sausage in the freezer, and it’s perfect for adding a bit of fat + flavor to this otherwise rather bland soup.

When I dipped into the local grocery on my street, NOBODY was buying things like Burrata Cheese, so I grabbed one to satisfy todays cheese cravings – Bruschetta is one of our favorite things!

ALSO, because I know you were all so worried for me, my WINE DELIVERY arrived today! WHEW, that was a close one 😉 Thanks, Marquis Wine!

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Day Seven

WELL, Day Seven hasn’t happened yet – it’s TODAY!, but obviously I’m a PLANNER so of course I’ve given it thought! I try to start each day by looking at what’s going bad in the fridge, needs to be eaten first, or I have plenty of to go around.

I usually start with whatever protein/meat I have in the Fridge, but it’s officially cleaned out and we’re onto more Freezer stocks now.

SO, Today will include … leftover Ham + Burrata on Crackerbread w Poached Eggs for Breaky, Freezer Chicken, Green Beans that need to be used soon, probably some Mashed Potatoes and hopefully some fresh Bread (!!).

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SO what about YOU?!
Are you having to get experimental? Using up your Pantry? Learning any fabulous new recipes?? I’d love to hear!

I’m anticipating next weeks menus will be quite different, as rations get lower and we’re digging deeper and deeper into the freezers, but that just means MORE creativity, right?!

In the meantime, we can all dream about Oysters with this Dressing Sauce – yummmmmmy.

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Oyster Dressing Sauce

This was a DELICIOUS accompaniment to our regular Oyster nights! And SO easy.
Course Side Dish, Starter

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 Juice of a half Lemon
  • 1 Tbsp Lobster Oil
  • 1/4 Shallot – minced
  • Salt as needed

Instructions
 

  • Strain the juice of a half lemon into a small serving container
  • Slowly drizzle 1 Tbsp of Lobster Oil, stirring to emulsify
  • Stir in minced shallot, and any salt needed (I didn't use any)
  • ENJOY! Spoon with a tiny serving spoon over your shucked Oyster!
  • PICKING YOUR OYSTERS
    Everyone has their own oyster preference. Some love the tiny varieties – I personally feel a bit ripped off when they're so small haha! How easily they'll shuck is another consideration. If the shell is quite curvy or too tiny, it can be harder on your hands, especially if you're doing dozens at a time!
    The best way to determine is to host a tasting for yourself, making notes of each type, how easy it is to shuck, how meaty it is, how sweet / creamy / metallic / etc. I love Raspberry Points and the Royal Miyagi's.
    Leave me a note and let me know your favorite!

Notes

Need more flavor varieties?!
Try some of these!
  • Add drops of Tabasco
  • A minced slice of anchovy instead of any salt 
  • A touch of Habanero Hot Sauce
  • ?! 
Keyword base, dressing, lemon, lobster, oyster, side, side dish, starter

Creating a ‘Mini-Oasis’ Small Dinner Party!

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Do your “open plan” spaces sometimes feel a bit TOO open for intimate dinners? Feel like just being cozy for a night? I have just the solution!

Sometimes my house is too full of LEGO and Nerf Bullets and I really don’t want to clean it ALL just for one dinner, or I’m just too busy cooking to really care… or maybe I just want my guests closer to the Kitchen where I’m stationed – either way, a Mini-Oasis has become my NEW FAVORITE THING!

I had a dinner scheduled for 6 people, and even though our Dining room is open to the Kitchen I felt like it was too far for me to be involved in conversation as guests sat, chatted and enjoyed the courses I was planning. Full disclosure – the Dining Table was FULL of crap I didn’t have the energy to attend to, either. In a moment of SHALL I SAY GENIUS problem-solving haha I thought ‘what if I use the ’empty’ space between my Island and the Dining room?’!

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It started fairly humbly – an IKEA fold-up table with one of my pre-cut plywood tops was perfect for a small party of 6. But what of the mess around the rest of the house I had neither the time nor the inclination to clean?

alison kent home dinner party small group mini oasis house plants table setting intimate ideas tips for small parties
SO inspired to do this again AND SOON!

HOUSE PLANTS! I’ve kept larger house plants for years originally for air quality with all our allergy-sufferers here, but now mostly because they’re less likely to die than smaller plants. In their pots, they’ve also proven portable, so they were the perfect solution for hiding the rooms we weren’t using while creating a beautiful, intimate space right next to the Kitchen.

PRO tip

If you have the space to extend your table, keep it simple with a sturdy fold up table and a plywood top cut to match the width of your Dining table.

VOILA! Extra seating space on demand.

BONUS: You can use your fold up / plywood on it’s own for smaller parties!

alison kent

It turned out so beautifully, I’ll definitely be repeating it for small dinners to come. I’ve also since propagated my Monstera and Banana Leaf plants, so now I have 5 more larger plants (for FREE!) to add to the Collection.

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Happily a guest brought this tall pink plant (??) to plant in our yard, so for dinner it contributed perfectly to the screening of the adjacent Living Room (also messy… #sorrynotsorry

For a larger summer party last year, I took the big plants all outside to create an outdoor oasis and it was perfect – but next time I have to be sure to bring them back in doors by the next am or they start to die, apparently LOL…

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Can you say YARD GOALS?! I may or may not have a few of these Hydrangea snippings to start in pots in my own garden!!

It was such a good idea indoors, I’m even going to try to carry it outdoors this year by putting gorgeous Hydrangeas and Lavender in pots that can be – by someone much stronger than I LOL – moved to surround the table when desired.

What do you think? Would you try this??
What would you add to make your mini-oasis dinner that little bit EXTRA?!


about last NIGHT | 19.12.31 New Years Eve

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HAPPY New Years 2020!!
Who else is excited for a whole new decade?!

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Tablescape with vintage silver chargers and “base plates” to carry all the plated dishes to come!

My 2019 ended with another e p i c a l l y delicious NYE dinner with fellow cook, El Jefe Chef Fong, and our “sous-chef’s” May and Jenny.

akHOME MYakHOME theakHOMEkitchen akCOOKS Food Home Cook Entertain Tablescape Tablescapes Entertaining Style Tablestyle New Years Eve Dinner Lobster Bisque
Lobster claws getting prepped by El Jefe Chef Fong for Bisque

The “NYE Cookathon” tradition began when we had small boys at home and didn’t want to pay for babysitting AND dinner out. And so, with me looking for a cooking challenge, we spent our first NYE at home, with Hubby putting together IKEA furniture and my beloved Nana helping in the Kitchen. We’d sit every hour or so, once I’d finished cooking a dish, then go back to boys/chores or cooking the next course. In between, we’d write a list of all the ups and downs the previous year had brought us.

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Dehydrated Blood Orange slices for Whiskey Sours

As the years wore on, the food became more complex – and more delicious! Or not – after an evening of wine, one out of 10 dishes ends up biting it… On the whole, though it was actually BETTER food than eating out at most places anyhow, so it became a tradition. At some point friends with their kids starting joining in and it’s grown to about 10 of us who gather each year, kids upstairs with a giant batch of mac + cheese, adults at the table eating the “good stuff” haha.

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Beef Tartare from the Tenderloin “off-cuts” – simply beautiful

This NYE the Menu wasn’t as complex as previous years (8 courses of French Laundry and 3 days of cooking, anyone?!), but still DELICIOUS – and more relaxing! It’s a mix of French + Italian, and all over YUMMY. I think all the guests were pleasantly full and fully pleased.

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NEW YEARS EVE

Whiskey Sours w Blood Orange

Beef Tartare, Smokered Salmon

Scallop Brown Butter Risotto w
Black Truffle

Lobster Claw Bisque w
Creme Fraiche + Caviar

Beef Tenderloin w Jus

Wild Mushrooms + Broccolini

Crispy Duck Confit + Blood Orange Salad

Cheese Course

Chocolate Souffle w Eggnog
Creme Anglaise

incl Wine Pairings + Champagne

19.12.31
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akHOME MYakHOME theakHOMEkitchen akCOOKS Food Home Cook Entertain Tablescape Tablescapes Entertaining Style Tablestyle New Years Eve Dinner Brown Butter Scallop Risotto with Black Truffle

Personal touches included Salmon that Kid Tt smoked out in my new Weber Smoker, and Risotto and Bisque from my end-of-summer Stock cook. I also took a half of blood orange for the salad and dehydrated slices for the Whiskey Sours – UM, YUM! None of the recipes were new, which made it fun to play with some new ingredient additions instead.

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The whole family got involved for the first time, with our eldest making some amazing Whiskey Sours, the younger daughter taking charge of the tablescape, and one of our sons doing the smoking – such a fun event to host as a family!

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How did YOU ALL celebrate the closing of the ’10’s, ringing in the roaring 20’s?!
However you did, I’m wishing you an incredible 2020 and decade ahead!

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10 TIPS on How to Entertain Big Groups (in Small Spaces)

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I serve a lot of dinners for just the fam (of 6), and I often entertain in small dinner parties for 6-12 people, but 4 times a year it’s a literal big group free-for-all in my home. Open invitation to family, friends who think they’re family, and friends who don’t have family locally (typical in bigger cities) – even friends who bring THEIR whole family!

I like to know everyone has at least ONE option for Easter/Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and end-of-Summer, even if that means they have to hang out w me!

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the CREW

Some of these started pretty humble and small – and many ‘original’ guests from 15 yrs ago yearn for those quieter days back – but adding new people also keeps things interesting and lively! Since we see some of the same people consistently throughout the year, it’s nice a few times a year to really MIX IT UP with a crazy crew of humans we call friends.

These lovely humans range from newborn to 90; from Designers to non-Designers (haha – yes there IS a such species – who knew?! But I’m sure they all WISH they were Designers…); from single to married or divorced or widowed; to kids or no kids; from straight or gay; Christian or athiest; and to anyone and everyone in between.

The crew has grown up to 65 people – so far. For the record, I do NOT have a big, or luxurious – or even clean – home. I guess people like food and wine in tight knit spaces, so they cram in anyhow haha. At least sometimes w Easter and always for Summer, we can expand or set up outdoors, but Thanksgiving and Winter is ALL INSIDE. And it gets hoooooot inside, Baby.

As you can imagine, I’ve learned a FEW things over the past 15 years of entertaining to a larger scale in a pretty small space (my Kitchen/Dining/Living is only about 700 sf total (thanks to hellish VANCOUVER REAL ESTATE prices!!), so here goes!


10 Tips for Entertaining
Big Groups in Small Spaces

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Push all the major furniture to the edges of the room. It gives you the most flexibility with walking through, standing room, seating, etc. Also, extra tip here, if you use a long table cloth you can push all your loose crap under a table pushed against the wall and no one will know. Not even me.

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Once all the big tables and sofas have been pushed, fill the nooks and crannies back in with small 2-3 seat vignettes for people to sit and chat. It helps disperse the crowd, rather than have 30 people in one spot.

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akHOME MYakHOME theakHOMEkitchen akCOOKS Food Home Cook Kitchen Design Number Three

Prepare at least one big, fat, main protein (whether meat or not – a main course that’s warm and sustainable) and a couple of sides to feed the whole group at ONE helping – then you don’t have to stress over what the guests bring (unless it’s ALL dessert LOL).

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Serve only dishes that can be served at room temperature, like Turkey that, once sliced, can be used for mini-sandwiches. Then you can be done and out of the kitchen before guests even arrive, glass of wine in hand as you float about the room!

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Let your guests bring everything else. At our big parties, no guest arrives without a meal item and bottle of wine to share. Takes alllllllll the pressure off the Host(ess) – me -, and now everyone can socialize – even me. Guests are usually happy to contribute, and if not, they’ll still do it if you ask – and if they want to be invited back!

LET THE PEOPLE DO THE THINGS. Let go of control. 90% of the people who are coming know us well enough to just walk in, meaning I don’t have to rush to the door every time the bell rings. If someone needs a ladle or a platter, I tell them where to find it so they know their way around my Kitchen, vs me always getting up to do it. Not only does it relieve my stress, people actually feel more ‘at home’ knowing their way around.

Feel free to keep decorations and flowers at a minimum. With crowds this big, no one will really notice, and room for plates / wine / food / WINE etc will be of utmost importance. I limit it to one small display on the main food table. That’s it.

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Encourage guests to take lots of photos – and send them to you! Even with all the pressure off your plate, simply going around to say HI to everyone will fill your evening and you won’t do it.

ASK FOR HELP! I’ve gotten pretty good at nailing down early-comers with a “can you put out the cutlery?”, “grab some boxwood sprigs please!”, or “can you run for ICE?!” (every time! when will I learn to keep ice on hand?!).

Don’t bother w the good china. This is not the time. Paper plates (albeit PRETTY ONES) are just fine this round, unless you want to do dishes for 65 people. I don’t. Keep your stress down, even after the party!


Got a full house this Holiday Season?
What tips / tricks do you use to entertain with ease??

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ENTERTAIN | Elevating your Food

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It can’t be just me – you know you’ve done it, too!

Back in the day (maybe two whole years ago) there was a time when a box covered in cloth (Guilty!) or the ubiquitous round cake stand were the two most popular options for creating height, interest, drama for and easy access to food on a tablescape.

Not one to be drawn to anything I saw mass produced in the shops, and being a big dinner party / party host, I started to design the Food Trays – and all of lifes problems were suddenly SOLVED! Well, ok, it wasn’t quite that simple. The designs evolved, artisans were found, and almost 18 months later…

Food – ELEVATED.

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The first artisan on board was Birdman the Welder who helped out with the bent steel and beautiful goes-with-everything — champagne gold — powdercoating. It was important to me that the FOOD stood out, but could be easily accessible on a crowded table, and that the two sizes nested JUST RIGHT into each other. Love! They nailed it.

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Yep, more Garden Parties!

Next up was Kristine Webber c e r a m i c s! OH how I love this lady – and her dedication to my little project. Apparently “let’s just cut out rectangles and fire them up!” is not how ceramics work (yes, I’m learning a LOT about materials LOL).

Kristine worked tirelessly to create a ceramic base that would lay flat on a tray, was the perfect color and texture – LOVE texture – and could even be put in the dishwasher!!!

They turned out beautifully, and were eventually short-listed for a ceramics award 🙂

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Trays beautifully hold up food & herbs

PRO TIP

You can also add various heights with plants/flowers, candles, pretty water jugs, and food like whole lemons.

theakhomekitchen

They turned out so beautifully, in fact, that stock sold out – TWICE – and I added wood trays by the uber-talented Willow & Stump (Western Living’s Furniture Designer of the Year 2018) as well as some etched marble trays for some beautiful mixing and matching on any variety of tablescapes and dinner themes.

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The cascading charcuterie is always the perfect use of the nesting tables

Perfectly suited for cascading charcuteries, no?! It’s been an amazing experience to work with so many talented local artisans – every piece is unique and absolutely made with love!

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Bridal Shower goodies! YUM!

The best part is seeing how YOU all use the Food Trays! Like this bridal shower above. I use the trays for everything from Taco Tuesday (what better way for everyone to reach the hot sauce?!) to ‘the holder of my office trinkets’ on my desk.

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The work desk in my house <3 I smile at the little salvaged bits and pieces every time I sit – what a great way to start some work…

Do you entertain a lot? What would you use the “Food” Trays for? Tag #MYakHOME and @alisonkent_home on your Insta to share!

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